So you’re a student and need tech for college or university. Maybe you even know your way around Apple’s annual Back to School rebates (opens in new tab) on all types of Apple devices. Those of you who are already in higher education probably know how ubiquitous iPads and Macbooks are on campus. And if you only go there this year, you will see it soon enough. So the question is: if you’re a student, should you get a laptop or computer; a MacBook or an iPad?
The answer here is actually more complicated than you might think, because while Macbooks are generally more powerful and more expensive than iPads, there are actually a number of reasons (actually at least seven) why you might want to opt for an iPad instead.
So sit back, buckle up, and check out what this semester’s tuition will have in store for you, because we’ve got a list of the seven things an iPad can do for students that a Macbook can’t…
1. Easier to carry, use and carry on the go
This won’t shock you, but iPads are actually smaller and lighter devices than Macbooks. A Macbook Air comes in at around 2.8 pounds / 1.3 kg, while an iPad Pro weighs just 1.5 pounds / 0.7 kg. Of course, a Macbook with its keyboard takes up more space than an iPad as a tablet. If you’re walking between classes with a bag on your back, it’s important to keep that load light, especially if you also need to carry around textbooks.
Yes, it’s true that Apple is obsessed with thin and light designs for its laptops, but still, a Macbook isn’t as easy to take with you as an iPad, and if you’re just looking for something to take notes on, switch on and that Professor might not pay as much attention as you should, then an iPad can get the job done without the bulk.
2. Turns into a laptop when you want it
Typing on a touchscreen is fine. We all do it; We all have phones. However, sending a text is very different than creating a long document of notes from a multi-hour class, so you might want a keyboard and maybe a mouse for that. The good news is that an iPad can effortlessly (and wirelessly) connect to Bluetooth keyboards and mice (opens in new tab) without problems.
Just toss a keyboard or mouse in your bag (and don’t worry, companies make small, portable versions of these that are perfect for on the go) and you’ll be set up on your iPad in seconds. rotated laptop at your desk. Also, you can get a small case/stand for your iPad to make it a more ergonomic device that allows you to stand, view and type with a keyboard.
Don’t feel like shelling out the extra expense for a Macbook to lug around just so you can type on a keyboard and use a mouse.
3. Excellent apps perfect for ultra mobile use
Macbooks run macOS, which by design shares a lot of overlap with iOS and iPadOS. Apple has been trying to unify the user experience across its products for some time, but no class of devices has benefited from this push more than the iPad. Of course, you can get all the apps you want on a Macbook, no problem, but you can (in most cases) get this in a slimmer, yet full-featured, package for on the go.
Tablet software is evolving fast, and today you can download Photoshop, the Microsoft suite, the Google suite, Slack, video editors, messaging apps, productivity tools, note-taking apps, and just about anything else under the sun right to your iPad and have largely the same experience as on a Macbook.
4. It’s really easy to charge
With a Macbook, you need to take your power brick with you, and you need an outlet to use one really regularly. Sure, a modern Macbook has around 10 hours of battery life, which is about what modern iPads can do, but an iPad is a lot easier to charge than a Macbook, especially when you’re on the go. And we all know it’s easy to forget to fully charge your devices before going anywhere.
Grab a small power bank (opens in new tab) that you can slip into your backpack without taking up almost space, and you’ll have an easy way to extend your iPad’s battery life wherever you go, and you won’t be tied to finding an outlet anymore to find that one spot in the classroom with the perfect power hookup.
5. Doesn’t cost an arm… or a leg
I hate to tell you this, but Apple products don’t come cheap. Even Apple fans will tell you that tablets and laptops really don’t have to be as fabulously and exquisitely engineered as Apple would like them to be. You don’t have to get anywhere near four figures to get an iPad though, while MacBook Airs start at £959/$999.
The student’s natural state is being broke, so the starting price of £569 / $599 / AU$929 for an iPad Air can be quite attractive considering you can do essentially anything you want on one Macbook on your iPad can do. Why waste a few weeks’ groceries on a more expensive laptop when all you need is an iPad to watch movies on in the comfort of bed?
6. Might be the best possible device for designers
If you’re an illustrator or a more technical artist, the iPad offers (surprisingly to some) a variety of top-notch apps, many of which pair elegantly with the Apple Pencil, another popular and widely used design accessory. If you’re in this special world, an iPad might not even be a better choice, it’s actually an essential purchase.
Well, if you’re an English major you probably won’t have much of a need for high-end custom drawing apps and the like, but if you do need Procreate, Adobe Fresco, Linea Sketch, Paper, Affinity Designer, Sketch Club, Astropad Standard , Pixelmator or anything else, an iPad will be a good choice.
7. Offers up to 120 Hz gaming for little money
Apple’s laptops and computers have never really been great gaming devices, although that’s slowly changing over the years. If you’re a gamer, you know the importance of a high refresh rate, but the unfortunate reality is that only Apple’s more expensive MacBook Pros come with ProMotion 120Hz displays.
However, you can get an iPad Pro, maybe a year or two older than the latest, for a lot cheaper, and you can still enjoy a buttery smooth 120Hz refresh rate. This not only radically improves the gaming experience – which you can have with a Bluetooth controller on the iPad, increasing responsiveness – but also makes web browsing and using apps all the more enjoyable.
8. Easier to download movies and TV shows
Whether it’s Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Prime Video or something else, you probably won’t be able to download (legal) movies and shows to watch offline on your Macbook. Typically, this functionality is limited to tablets and mobile devices, so an iPad lets you take full advantage of streaming service downloads when you don’t expect to have a solid internet connection.
Sure, normally you’re probably connected to the internet, but this is a handy feature when you need a device to take with you on a long trip or flight where you want to enjoy entertainment without having a stable internet connection. Unfortunately, this is a bit more complicated with a Macbook, which gives the iPad another advantage.
How to get student discounts on Spotify, Apple Music, Netflix and more
Best iPads: big and small, from budget to premium
Best tablets: Top tablets for movies and music
How to set up your tablet for the best picture and sound quality